The ball fields at the Delta County Fairgrounds received a facelift just in time for Hotchkiss Home Plate's spring practice season. Home Plate provides the North Fork area's youth opportunities to play more baseball and softball.
Commonly referred to as the "Dust Bowl," the two fields underwent a multi-day project to remove the top two inches of soil from the infield and replace it with 85 tons of "in-field blend," a blend of dirt made specifically for use on ball fields. The fields had become infested with goat head thorns, those evil, multi-pronged stickers that puncture bike tires and get caught in animal paws.
"It needed to be done," said Michelle Pagone with Hotchkiss Home Plate. If kids weren't wearing cleats when they went out on the field, "They were when they came off."
"We definitely couldn't have done it without the community," said Home Plate board president Terry Pagone. Roop Excavating provided the skid-steer and dump truck used in clearing the field, and Tribble & Sons spread the infield blend over the field. Both donated the labor and machine operators. The only thing Home Plate had to pay for, said Pagone, was the in-field blend, for which Benson Brothers in Austin gave a good price. Funds came from sponsorships from the 2016 season.
After the new infields were laid, about a dozen volunteers were out Saturday for a spring cleanup that included burning of weeds along fence lines, digging and filling in of foul lines, and completion of improvements.
Practice for summer baseball and softball programs begin this week. Michelle Pagone said enrollment for the summer program includes kids from throughout the North Fork area. While registration has ended, there may be a few spots still open, said Pagone. She can be reached at 970-778-0040.